Afraid to Talk
1933. USA. Edward L. Cahn. 69 min.
Thursday, November 10, 2011, 4:30 p.m.
Theater 1 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1), T1
Afraid to Talk
1933. USA. Directed by Edward L. Cahn. Screenplay by Tom Reed, based on the play by George Sklar, Albert Maltz. With Eric Linden, Sidney Fox, Tully Marshall, Louis Calhern, Edward Arnold. In rediscovering this gem of pre-Code noir, it is hard not to think of the panorama of political and civic corruption in The Wire or David Mamet’s masculine prose. Shortly after the stock market crash, Jig Skelli (Arnold) puts a hit on a rival gangster and then sets up a bellboy witness (Linden) for the murder. The city is a cesspool of graft, blackmail, and brutal lawlessness as the DA (Marshall), his assistant (Calhern), and the mayor (Churchill), knowing that Skelli has the goods on them, go along with his crooked scheme. Karl Freund, the great Weimar cinematographer, and art directors Charles Hall and Edgar G. Ulmer (yes, that Ulmer) gave the film its requisite sleaze; Cahn, a director deserving reconsideration, proved that Universal Studios could do more than horrify audiences during the 1930s; and co-playwright Maltz would go on to write This Gun for Hire and The Naked City before becoming victim to another form of dirty dealing: the Hollywood blacklist. New print courtesy Universal Pictures. 69 min.
In the Film exhibition To Save and Project: The Ninth MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation
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